Time, the Library, and the Old Man

A short story

The old man closes his eyes and finds himself on the beach. Waves lap the shore. The scent of salt tangles in his hair and spreads across his (now) twelve-year-old face.

Plunge once to find a memory lost amid the sands of time.
Delve twice into their depths,
to leave not a jot behind.

Sensing a presence, he turns to see his best friend. The sun dances on her arms as she lifts them to touch the beams. She smiles that familiar smile. Oh, how he’s missed it. But, until this moment, her face had been a closed book in his mind’s library.

When shut,
the story drips from pages tightly squeezing,
and as the clock permits,
it scatters out with gentle easing.

There, old volumes gathered dust, full of yesterday’s dreams, toil, and hopes. Snapped and bolted. He didn’t want to view their beauty and remember what he’d lost.

Reach inside the waves,
to gather long-lost gems.
Hold them close,
and feel them once again.

Now, he strolls, glancing at her face as she breaks into a run. With outstretched arms and bare feet, she speeds along the wet sand, her head back rejoicing in the moment.

When the heart leaps,
feet and soul gather pace.
They stumble from the past,
and at last rejoin the race.

He feels his arms, full of light, lift too, and his footsteps quicken to a run. Sand squelches between his toes as they meet the tugging ocean.

His heart yips with a carefree liberty that comes from freedom, and the book of his past opens.

The door creaks wide,
and something beckons come inside.
Come beneath the sea,
and recall the joy of being free.

Together, he and Sal laugh, plunge their arms into deep rock pools, and enjoy the childhood fascination that, despite the closeness of the next step into adulthood, hasn’t yet flown.

Those days,
once held between the pages,
drift on seas of light,
and sail through boundless ages.

Fleetingly, the old man dives into the present. But he closes his eyes again, squeezing them tight, until he’s back on the shore. There, his friend waits, unaware he’s been missing from the time-fragment. She giggles as a tiny crab scampers across her hand to plop into the rock pool.

Catch a wave.
Drink it deep.
Hold it and in memories steep.

This time, the man is aware of the boy, and the boy of the man’s presence. Who is with him? How can this be?

He questions all he imagines he knows about time. Is time real? Or do we live our memories at once, skipping back and forth like pendulums? Does every memory help us relive events we’ve done over and over? Or what we will do later? Or what some other part of us does now?

An ancient clock stops:
Its hands move only to the beat of his heart,
dragging him to the library’s depths from which he never was apart.

His hand, cold as it trails in the water, brings him into the story from his archive. And he listens to the waves and gulls. He watches the sunlight reflect on the sea’s surface, and cherishes the experience of friendship, whether faced the second, third, or hundredth time round.

When his eyes open, and he is in his comfortable chair at home, his world has changed. Just ten minutes before, he plodded through his end days. Now, though, he understands there is no beginning or end. Life is circular and to be re-experienced.

Perhaps subtle alterations occur. But the crucial point, he thinks, of encountering the same stories again and again, is to do so with a changed heart. Every tale feels different because the heart’s ability to welcome sensations and learning grows.

The circle of life continues, long after the chair is vacant. The library is forever open, and each book is revisited by an expanded version of the self.

Written by

Writer, poet, storyteller. https://muckrack.com/bridget-webber-1 Author Page Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y2cgqhgv

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